Your rights when buying goods
The law says that goods you buy must be:
- as described - this means that they must meet the description given to them either on the label, on notices in the shop or verbally by the retailer
- of satisfactory quality - they must be of a standard that a reasonable person would consider satisfactory from the point of view of appearance, finish, freedom from defects, safety and durability
- for the purpose - they must do the job they are supposed to do
If goods that you buy do not meet with these conditions you have the right to ask the retailer for your money back, or for a reasonable repair that meets the conditions. If the retailer will not do this you should contact the Office of Fair Trading for more advice.
These rules also apply if you buy goods from the UK either in person or at a distance through catalogues or the Internet for instance but think seriously before you buy anything off-Island.
If things go wrong you can obviously return small items by special delivery post but you will have to pay for this as the law is quite clear that it becomes your responsibility to return items to the retailer. The retailer does not have to pay for return postage or arrange for faulty items to be collected.
This could of course be expensive with larger items. Also bear in mind when buying a large item that it may need servicing or repairing at a later date so before you buy off-Island make sure that there is a local service agent.
Remember though that goods bought from abroad will be covered by that country’s laws and even if these same standards apply it could be difficult for you to get your complaint dealt with or to take legal action.
Shopping at a distance
The marketplace for consumer goods and services for Island residents includes:
- mail order catalogues
- internet shopping
- shopping television channels
Although this type of shopping has advantages for a number of people it does come with its own problems.
Your Right To Clear Information
Before you buy
The seller must give you the following information:
- The name of the trader, along with their postal address if you have to pay in advance
- An accurate description of the goods or services
- The price, along with any taxes and delivery charges if relevant, and how long the price or offer remains valid
- Delivery arrangements (usually within 30 days unless you agree otherwise)
- Payment arrangements
- The right to cancel the order
- Information about whether you will be liable for the cost of returning goods if you change your mind about them
- For the services provided over a period of time, such as a mobile phone contract, you must be told what the minimum duration of the contract will be
After you buy
The trader must also provide you with the following information:
- Written confirmation of your order (by letter, email or fax) including the above information if not already provided, say in the catalogue or advert
- Written information on how to cancel, a contact postal address and details of any guarantees, warranties or after-sales services, if applicable
- Details of how and when to end a contract for the provision of a service, if there is no specified finish date or if the service lasts longer than a year (for example internet service providers)
- This information should be sent to you by the time the goods are delivered, or before or soon after the time a service starts
Internet shopping is easy and convenient – by computer, digital TV or mobile phone. This information is to help you buy with confidence.
Your usual consumer rights apply online. In the EU, any UK credit card company must refund you if your credit or debit card is used fraudulently.
- If you buy by credit card and the goods fail to arrive or are faulty, the card company should refund you for any single item costing over £100
- Be aware of the security features on the supplier’s web site
- Look for a closed padlock sign at the bottom of the screen, which should appear when you are asked to enter personal details – it shows that your details are protected when being sent
When you shop on the internet:
- You should be given key details before you buy (including the supplier’s postal address)
- In many cases in the EU the 'cooling off' law allows you time to change your mind and get a refund providing you notify the supplier within seven working days of the delivery
- Items must be delivered within 30 days unless otherwise agreed
- Use sites you know or which have been recommended to you
- Get the supplier's phone number and postal address
Buying from abroad
- Check technical standards, delivery charges and taxes
- If you buy from traders in EU countries you have many of the rights you have in the IOM
- Many other countries, such as the USA, have high standards of consumer protection, but check the small print. Your rights are likely to be set by foreign law and problems could he harder to sort out
Duties and taxes
- EU: VAT is dealt with by the supplier; no customs duties on goods or services; alcohol and tobacco attract UK excise duty and UK VAT
- USA and rest of the world: goods may be liable to customs and excise duties and VAT
- rates vary
- things delivered digitally online may include VAT in the price charged to you
- Keep a copy of what you've ordered, plus the supplier's confirmation message
Data protection and unwanted email
- You have the right to object to the use of your personal details for direct marketing
- Contact your internet service provider or use the Direct Marketing Association email preference service
Your high street rights apply
- Goods must be of satisfactory quality
- Adverts and descriptions must not be misleading
- With auctions and private sellers the general rule is 'buyer beware'
If problems arise
- First, ask the supplier to put things right
- Many suppliers are covered by schemes aimed at settling disputes without having to go to court. The Office of Fair Trading can advise further
Top 10 tips for safer online shopping:
- Be careful when you give your credit or debit card details on the Internet. Always find out whether the company has a secure site, and look for information about the protection the company has put in place.
- The trader must give their name, address and telephone number, not just their e-mail address. They must also fully describe the goods for sale and orders must be confirmed in writing.
- As with any other type of purchase, shop around for the best deals and prices. Under Isle of Man and European legislation you are now entitled to a seven day 'cooling off' period when you can change your mind.
- Watch out for high postage rates and for other hidden costs, such as VAT and other duty payable, particularly if goods are being sent from abroad.
- See if you can get personal recommendations for companies you have not done business with before.
- Remember, goods being sent from abroad may take some time to be delivered. Check with the trader how long this will take, and set a delivery date that you must have them by, if that is important. Where no delivery date has been agreed then delivery should be within 30 days. Goods & Services ordered from UK & European Countries will be covered by the Distance Selling Regulations.
- Check what the company's policy is on returning goods that you don't like or have changed your mind about. Again, if they have come from abroad, you may be faced with a hefty postage bill to return them. Refunds should be made within 30 days.
- On the subject of buying from abroad, remember that if you have problems like faulty goods or non-delivery, it might be very difficult to get your complaint dealt with. Although your contract will probably be covered by U.K. law if you paid for the goods using a major credit card, getting money out of a company based abroad may be impractical.
- For that reason, don't buy very expensive items from companies outside the UK or Europe unless you know them well - that way, if things do go wrong, you limit the risk.
- Most importantly, print out the order, and keep any terms and conditions that appear on the web site, just in case of any disputes or problems later on.
Internet auction is the term commonly used to describe any kind of website that allows people to sell a wide range of goods in a number of ways including through competitive bidding. This information is about your rights when you buy goods from a website calling itself an internet auction site. It does not cover your rights if you are selling goods through one of these sites.
This information applies only if you are buying goods on an internet auction site from a seller based in the Isle of Man, UK or in another European Union (EU) country.
If the seller is based outside the UK or EU, different rules may apply, even if the internet site itself is based in the Isle of Man, UK or the EU.
About internet auction sites
Internet auction sites don't operate in the same way as traditional auctioneers and they don't have the same responsibilities.
When you buy something from an internet auction site, you are usually buying from the seller, not the site, and it is the seller you will need to complain to if something goes wrong.
The seller could be a private individual, or a business trader. It is important to know which, as this will affect your rights.
As a general rule, you will have more rights if the seller is a business trader than if they are a private individual, although it may not always be possible to tell if the seller is a business trader and it can be difficult to make sure they give you what you're entitled to.
There are different types of sale available on internet auction sites. Some are auction-style sales involving bidding for items. Others, for example 'Buy-it-now’ on eBay, aren't auction sales at all. Your rights will depend on the type of sale you buy from. They will also depend on whether any extra protection is available through the terms and conditions of the site, or through the method of payment you have used.
Buying from business traders
It's not always possible to tell whether you are buying from a business trader on an internet auction site. If the sale isn't an auction-style sale, a seller who is a business trader should tell you that they're a business trader before the sale is made. However, some traders don't do this and pretend to be private sellers in order to avoid their legal responsibilities towards their customers.
Some things which might tell you that you are buying from a business trader are if:
- there is a high amount of feedback from buyers
- there is a large number of similar items for sale
- the items for sale are mostly new
- the items are being sold in a 'shop' within the site or have 'power-seller' status on eBay
- there are links to a business website
- the photographs of the items for sale are stock photographs, rather than the actual items themselves
- the user ID is a trading name or includes (for example: Ltd)
Normal shopping rights when you buy from a business trader
If you buy goods on an internet auction site and the seller is a business trader, you have at least as many rights as if you had bought the goods in a shop (and sometimes you have more).
This means the goods:
- must be of satisfactory quality
- match the description given on the website
- should be free of any faults, including minor ones
- be of the same quality and last as long as a reasonable person would expect
- must also be able to used for the purpose that you would normally expect of this type of product
If there is something wrong with the goods, you should complain to the seller. Depending on how serious the problem is and how quickly you make your complaint, you may be able to:
- return the goods and get your money back (this is usually possible only within a very short period after buying them)
- get a free repair done
- get a replacement for the goods
- get some of your money back
- claim compensation
The seller should pay for any postage costs involved in sending goods back or in getting them repaired.
Extra rights when you buy online from a business trader
You also have some extra rights when you buy goods online from a business trader. This includes the right to be given the name and address of the business trader before you place your order.
You may also have some additional rights because you have bought something from a trader without having face-to-face contact with them. Buying this way is known as distance selling. You will only get these additional rights when you buy goods from a business trader on an internet auction site in one of a certain number of ways. This is because when you buy goods in one of these ways, the sale isn't a real auction sale, even if some form of bidding is involved.
You will get these additional rights when:
- the items are sold at a fixed-price (for example, 'Buy-it-now' on eBay)
- the items are being offered by auction, but you use an instant purchase option to buy
- you are the losing bidder for an item in an auction sale which has been re-offered to you after the winning bidder failed to pay
- it is a sham auction. It is likely to be a sham auction where the item is widely available elsewhere and where the opening bid amount is not much lower than what you would normally pay for the item.
The most important extra right you have when you buy online from a business trader in one of these ways, is the right to a 'cooling off' period. This means you can cancel your order if you change your mind about wanting the goods. You can do this within 7 working days after the day the goods are delivered. You can cancel your order within this period, even if there's nothing wrong with the goods and get a refund.
The trader must tell you that you have the right to a 7 cooling off period before you place your order. If they don't, the cooling off period will start when they tell you in writing about your right to cancel, or three months after the goods are delivered, whichever comes first.
If you want to cancel your order, you must do this in writing. The trader must return your money within 30 days. You may have to pay for the cost of returning the goods, although only if the trader has told you about this before you bought them. If you do have to pay for returning your goods, make sure you choose a postal service with enough insurance to cover any loss or damage.
When you buy online from a business trader, the trader must make sure you receive your goods within 30 days. If you don't get the goods within 30 days of placing your order, you have the right to cancel and get a full refund. You might also be able to get extra compensation on top of this.
Second hand goods
When you buy second hand goods from a business trader on an internet auction site, you have the same rights as if they were new. However, if there is a problem, you will need to take into account the price you paid for the goods when deciding whether you expect the trader to do anything about it. You shouldn't necessarily expect the goods to be of perfect quality, and your expectations of their performance may be lower.
Under certain, very limited circumstances, it's possible to lose some of your normal shopping rights when you buy second hand goods through an internet auction site. This could happen if you are offered the chance to view the goods in person. Although this is rare, it can sometimes happen. The most common example is when you buy second hand cars.
Buying from private sellers
Many people who advertise their goods for sale on internet auction sites are private sellers, similar to those placing a classified ad in a newspaper.
When you buy something on an internet auction site from a private individual, you have very few rights:
- you can't complain if the goods aren't of satisfactory quality or fit for the purpose you bought them.
- you don't have the right to cancel your order
- you don't have any of the other extra rights you get when you buy on an internet auction site from a business trader without having face-to-face contact
However, you do still have the right to complain to the seller if your goods don't match the description they've given on the website. This applies to second hand as well as new goods. If the goods don't match the description, you may be entitled to compensation from the seller. But you might need to go to court to try and get this. This may prove very difficult if the seller is off-Island and even if you are able to and win your case, the seller might not have enough money to pay you.
When you buy goods from a private seller, you may not be able to make a claim against them if the goods are damaged or lost before delivery. However, if the seller has offered you postal insurance and you have accepted, they will be expected to make a claim on the insurance on your behalf.
Options for solving your problem
Site protection schemes
Some internet sites have a protection scheme. These schemes can deal with problems such as non-delivery of goods or goods not matching their description. They can be useful if you want to avoid going to court, or the seller is from overseas, so it's worth checking if you can make a claim under one of these schemes.
However, you need to bear in mind the following:
- you may only have a very short period of time in which to make a claim
- there may be several types of problem which the scheme doesn't cover
- the amount of money you can claim on the scheme might be limited
- the number of claims you can make on the scheme may be limited
- you may have to try other options for solving your problem first, for example, making a claim through your credit card provider, if you paid by credit card
- to make a claim, you will also need to have followed the auction-site rules, policies or user agreement. This means that you won't be able to claim if you dealt with the seller directly through email instead of through the site
Dispute resolution schemes
Some internet sites offer a dispute resolution service. This is a scheme which will help you and the seller try to reach an agreement. Some schemes involve the services of trained mediators and will charge a fee. It's important to remember that you might not always get what you want when you use one of these schemes. Even if the seller agrees to pay you some money, there may not be a way of making sure they pay up.
Payment protection schemes
Many payments for things bought on internet auction sites are now made through special payment services, such as PayPal. Payment services will collect your money and won't release it to the seller until you have received your goods.
These services can be useful, but they do offer very different levels of protection for your money. Look carefully at the terms and conditions to find out what the scheme does or doesn't do. You may have to pay a fee to use a payment protection scheme, so it's important to shop around for the best one.
When you use an online payment service, you may find that your payments are not fully protected in some circumstances, for example, if you are dealing with sellers from overseas. You may also find that you are not protected if:
- fraud is involved
- you did not complain within the time limits, which are sometimes very short
- you entered into a deal with the seller outside the internet site
You used your credit card to buy the goods
If you used your credit card to buy something from a business trader on an internet auction site, you may be able to make a claim against the credit card company instead of the trader if there is something wrong with the goods. This could be useful where the trader has gone out of business or has no money to compensate you.
To be able to claim against the credit card company, the goods must have cost more than £100 and less than £30,000. If you paid by credit card, it may also be possible for you to get a payment reversed.
Extra protection when you pay by credit card or charge card
Many card networks, including credit cards and charge cards, operate chargeback arrangements. This means that, in some circumstances, you may be able to get a payment reversed. Check with your credit or charge card provider whether they operate chargeback arrangements.
Chargeback time limits can be tight and the schemes may not cover all types of claim. However, where they do operate, they will apply to payments made to overseas as well as UK sellers.
You may not be able to cancel after you have agreed to buy the goods, Before you buy find out whether the seller offers cancellation rights or a refund.
Going to court
If you have tried everything else but still got nowhere, you could think about making a claim against the seller in court. Going to court should be a last resort and may be very difficult to do if the seller is off-Island. If you haven't made a genuine effort to sort out your problem before starting court action, even if you win your case the court may reduce your compensation.
Before you go to court, you need to think about whether you have enough evidence. It will be up to you to prove your case. There is no guarantee that you will win your case and you may end up losing money. You also need to find out if the seller has enough money to pay your claim. It is not worth suing someone who has no money.
You will need to have the seller's address before you can take them to court.
What to do if you can't trace the seller
If you aren't able to trace the seller, contact the website. The site may be able to give you the seller's details. There is nothing in law which prevents them from doing this. However, they don't have to give you the seller's details if they don't want to.
If the seller appears to operate their own website with their own domain name, it may be possible to find out how to contact them by searching on a 'Who is' search engine.
Things to look for
Check the seller’s reputation
Most auction sites post feedback ratings of sellers based on comments by other buyers. Ask questions before you bid e.g. what is the returns policy? A good seller will always welcome enquiries.
Do your homework
Check the description, type of model and retail price of the goods. Be wary: if the price looks too good to be true, it usually is. If it’s a collectable item take steps to confirm it is authentic.
Before you bid
Find out what form of payment the seller will accept.
If it’s only cheques or money orders, decide whether you are willing to take the risk of sending your payment before you receive the product. Beware of sellers who try to make you send money through Instant Money Transfer systems such as Western Union. These systems are designed for transfers of money to family and friends - people you know and trust. If possible, you should use a credit card (check your details are protected) if you are buying from a trader because it offers the most protection if there’s a problem. If the seller doesn’t accept credit cards, buyers should consider using an escrow service, which holds your money until the goods are delivered.
Before you submit a price think carefully
Know how much you are willing to pay, stick to it, and think whether you are getting value for money. Once a price is accepted you will be expected to pay.
Read the small print
Is postage included in the price? How will the goods be posted? Do you need extra insurance? Is the seller based in the UK? If not what action can you take if things go wrong?
If you have a problem
It could be harder to get your money back. If you can’t resolve the matter with the seller, check to see if the auction site has dispute resolution procedures that may be able to help.
Many sites offer escrow services where, for a small fee, the escrow service acts as a neutral third party. It will hold the buyer’s payment and forward it to the seller when the buyer receives and approves the item. Be wary, as there are bogus escrow services that fail to pass the money to the seller.
Trading outside of the site
If someone invites you to deal away from the internet auction site by offering to sell the same item for the same or a lower price, be careful – if you buy off-site you lose any protections the site may provide and significantly increase your risk of being conned.
Be wary if a buyer has overpaid
There are a number of internet scams and people are advised to be cautious before agreeing to part with any money. You might be sent a cheque for more than the price advertised, the buyer may wish to cancel the order or ask that you give him a cheque minus the value of the goods. After the amount is credited to your account, you may find yourself out of pocket as the funds will not necessarily be available. Check with your bank.
What to do if fraud is involved
If you suspect that fraud is involved, you should report it to the Police.
Look out especially for:
- sellers who invite you to trade outside the internet site by offering to sell you something for the same or a lower price
- fake payment protection schemes which fail to pass your money on to the seller
- someone who contacts you when you are the losing bidder at an online auction, offering to sell you a similar product. This is likely to be a fraudster. They will insist on payment through an online payment scheme and then fail to deliver the goods
- items which cost a lot more than you think they're worth. Sellers can get people they know to put in false bids for items so that they can get a higher price
You should also report suspected fraud to the internet auction site. There are a number of ways in which they can penalise someone who is acting outside the rules of the site, including suspending their account.
Advice on internet scams can be found on the GOV.UK Consumer rights website.
Travel and holidays
Whether travelling for business or pleasure there are certain issues that you need to consider in advance of your trip.
Travel to the United Kingdom, Europe or Worldwide
There are a wide range of issues to consider when travelling to Europe and worldwide.
An excellent guide to the issues to be considered can be found on the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (BFCO) Travel Advice service.
This service provides information on:
- travelling and living abroad (by country)
- how to find a British embassy in a foreign country
- what support that embassy can offer you
- information about current issues related to that country
- any travel warnings for countries which are considered unsuitable for travel at any particular time
- information about medical issues aboard
- necessary travel insurance.
We have a Travel Insurance Guide to assist you with deciding the type and level of travel insurance you need.
The Reciprocal Health Agreement between the United Kingdom and the Isle of Man has highlighted that under the Agreement travellers to and from the UK do not or have ever had their repatriation (returning you home) costs paid. At the present time it does not seem possible to obtain repatriation cover on its own. Travellers are urged to carefully consider taking out travel insurance for this risk as the potential cost of repatriation can be well in excess of £20,000.
Package Holidays and Independent Travel
Choosing your holiday
Choose travel agents and tour operators who belong to a recognised trade association that have a code of practice. Look for Association of British Travel Agents or Association of Independent Tour Operators brochures or invoices.
Companies selling package holidays must offer protection to prevent customers from losing money and help to sort out any practical problems if they, or the airline, goes bust. Tour operators selling package holidays by air must hold an Air Travel Organiser’s Licence (ATOL) from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
When booking a package holiday consider the following:
1. Check whether your tour operator has an ATOL licence.
2. Check whether your trip counts as a package holiday - Some airlines offer holiday packages and should therefore provide financial protection. Other airlines offer flights and accommodation or car hire, sometimes through website links to other independent sites. These are often separate purchases from a different company so will not count as a package holiday and won't include package holiday protection. You should check whether either company offers protection and, if so, what this covers.
If you are abroad on a package holiday and your airline fails, your tour operator should take care of you at no extra expense. If an airline fails before you travel, your tour operator must offer a replacement holiday or a refund. If the tour operator fails, and it has an ATOL licence, the CAA will either bring you home if you are already on holiday or will make sure you are given a full refund if you have not travelled.
If something does go wrong whilst on holiday or the facilities are not as promised in the brochure make a complaint in the resort at the time of discovery. If the complaint is not dealt with satisfactorily at that time you may decide to take the matter further on your return home. Keep records and if possible take photographs to back up your complaint which should be put in writing to the tour operator as soon as possible.
Where you incur additional costs, for example if your luggage does not arrive on time, then keep all receipts for reasonable expenses incurred as a result. As before make your complaint at the time of discovery.
It is becoming increasingly popular for holiday makers to put together their own arrangements by combining flights and accommodation that they have found on the web. This can be a good value way to organise a holiday suited exactly to your needs, but independent travellers should be aware that you do not benefit from the same protection as people booking packages.
If you book a flight directly with the airline, you will not be covered by ATOL if the airline fails. However, you can protect yourself by booking with a travel agent that protects flights under its ATOL. When booking check that you receive confirmation of your ATOL protection or that you are provided with a Scheduled Airline Failure Insurance (SAFI) policy.
Equally if the hotel you have booked directly goes out of business alternative arrangements will not be made on your behalf.
If you book any part of your trip direct with the supplier of the service you may wish to pay by credit card as this provides financial protection under the Consumer Credit Act (1974) for purchases over £100 and up to £30,000.
If you don't use a credit card you should consider carefully the type of travel insurance you may need. Some policies for example cover airline failure, usually by including SAFI. However, many policies don’t include SAFI and some insurance providers may exclude particular airlines so you need to check carefully.
The timeshare industry has received a bad press for many years because of the tactics used by many resorts to sell their timeshare units.
Many of us will have been accosted whilst on holiday by 'timeshare touts' trying to persuade us to attend sales presentations which are often held miles from anywhere and last many hours. These presentations often involve high pressure sales techniques, so much so, that people are coerced into signing agreements to purchase timeshare which they do not want, merely to get away from the presentations.
The low satisfaction level of these consumers is in marked contrast to the many thousands of timeshare owners who have purchased their timeshare in more conventional ways and are exceedingly happy with the high quality of their purchase.
Timeshare is a complex product and is not something to be entered into lightly. Purchasing, whilst subject to the high pressure sales techniques of presentations will lead to confusion about the product and its affordability which leads to dissatisfaction.
To allow consumers to make an informed choice the European Union has introduced legislation that requires marketers to provide extensive documentation detailing the structure of the timeshare resort and the organisation. The legislation also provides for a minimum 10 day cooling-off period, during this period a purchaser may cancel any agreement without cost to him.
The Isle of Man has equivalent legislation which applies to any timeshare if:
- the purchaser is an individual, and
- the agreement is in any way governed by the laws of the Isle of Man, or
- on the date on which the agreement is signed by the purchaser, one or both of the parties are in, or ordinarily resident in the Island.
Failure to provide a cooling-off period, a notice of cancellation rights or documentation may result in prosecution.
The Office of Fair Trading is pleased to say that not one single prosecution has taken place which indicates the very highest level of compliance by local timeshare companies.
The legislation deals with very specific areas of the timeshare purchase and is intended to provide consumers with all salient facts and information about their purchase together with an opportunity to review those documents. Not all complaints about timeshare will be covered by the legislation and consumers must appreciate that they have to take some responsibility for their own actions.
It also has to be remembered that salesmen selling timeshare may on occasions exaggerate the benefits of purchasing a timeshare but such misrepresentations would likely fall outside the above legislation. In such a case the consumer may have to pursue a claim against the marketing company in the country where the misrepresentation was made - this could be both difficult and costly.
Whilst the Isle of Man Office of Fair Trading may be able to assist aggrieved consumers where there is an Isle of Man company involved either directly or indirectly, we are unable to pursue complaints involving companies based in other countries other than referring them to the relevant authorities.
There are few countries in the world that have Government agencies such as the Office of Fair Trading that are able to pursue complaints about timeshare or other consumer protection matters and so it is imperative for consumers to do everything in their power to avoid problems.
Car boot sales
Toys are often sold at car boot sales. Some are secondhand and some appear new.
There are three main problems with buying toys at car boot sales.
- The toys may not be safe. Always check that they are marked with the CE Mark - This means they have passed stringent safety tests.
- Broken toys can be very dangerous - Never buy them.
- Instructions on their use and the age the child should be to play with them are essential to their safe use. Do not buy toys which do not have instructions with them.
Counterfeit goods cover a wide range of items from designer clothing to computer games and perfume. They are often found in markets but also at car boot sales.
There are three reasons why we advise you not to buy counterfeit goods as they:
- may be unsafe because they have not been made to the correct safety standards
- may be of poor quality having been made from shoddy materials
- are often made in third world countries where the workers are not paid fairly for the work they do
The workers in the factories making the real goods could lose their jobs because people are buying the counterfeit goods and not the real ones.
You will have seen how difficult it can be to tell if goods are counterfeit or the real thing. Often the only way you will know is when you wash your new designer label sweatshirt and the colours run.
It can be very difficult to find the person who sold it to you and get your money back.
The best advice that we can give is that you buy in local high street shops where you can be reasonably sure that the goods are the real thing and you can get them exchanged if they are not of satisfactory quality.
Any secondhand electrical goods are potentially dangerous. You might not be able to see the dangers of a secondhand microwave oven which due to wear is leaking dangerous microwaves. You may find that wires are worn and sometimes the earth wire, which is vital to the safety of the item, can be missing.
The Office of Fair Trading advises to not buy secondhand electrical equipment at all.
How to get the best deal
Buying a used car can be tricky but you can help yourself. Use the Car Checklist to help decide whether a car is worth buying.
Before you buy
- Decide how much you can afford to pay - make sure you include running costs such as insurance, road tax, fuel, servicing, repairs and the cost of parking if using your vehicle to travel to work.
- Get quotes from insurance companies for several models of car - you may find that choosing a different model or a smaller engine size will reduce your annual insurance bill.
- Work out a fair price for the car you want - have a look through consumer car price guides and motoring magazines (both available from newsagents) to find out how much you might expect to pay for the year and model of the car you want. You can also search the internet for car price information.
- Ask around about the reliability of the car - talk to any colleagues or friends who have the same model or make, and consult motoring magazines and/or websites.
- Shop around - look at several different types of car from more than one seller so that you have a choice. Don’t choose a make and model too soon or ‘fall in love’ with a car.
- Check whether the car comes with a valid warranty - (or mechanical breakdown insurance) and what the terms and conditions are.
Your rights when buying
Your rights when buying used cars vary enormously - depending on who you buy from. You can buy used cars from dealers, private individuals, at auction or over the internet. On the following pages you can read about your rights in each case and what to watch out for.
Buying from a dealer
This can be the safest way to buy a used car but there are still dodgy dealers around. Look for an established firm with a good reputation - ask friends if they can recommend anyone.
- Dealers often belong to trade associations which may mean they follow a voluntary code of practice. If they do, and you have cause to complain, it could be easier to resolve. Ask for a copy of the code to see what it covers.
- Look for a garage whose cars have been inspected by a motoring association.
Your rights when buying from a dealer
The law says that a car must be:
of satisfactory quality
- it must meet the standard that a reasonable person would regard as acceptable. This covers, for example, the appearance and finish of the car, its safety and its durability.
- the car must be free from defects, except those that were pointed out to you by the seller (there will be normal wear and tear when a car is used), and those which should have been uncovered by an inspection (but only if you inspected the car, or if someone did it for you).
- a car said to have 'one careful middle aged owner' shouldn’t turn out to have had three previous owners, who all drove the car as if they were in a rally.
reasonably fit for any normal purpose
- it should get you from A to B - and for any other purpose that you specify to the seller - for example, towing a caravan.
These rights are not affected by any mechanical breakdown insurance (often sold by second hand dealers if the manufacturer’s warranty has run out), guarantee or warranty giving additional protection. It’s a good idea to get a description of the car’s condition from the dealer. Ask whether there is a pre-sale inspection checklist.
This should be cheaper than buying from a dealer. It could also be riskier too, for example, the car could be stolen. It may have been used as security for a loan or hire agreement and actually belong to a finance company.
Reduce the risks
- use our tips
- arrange to have the car inspected professionally
- always check with one of the companies which keep databases of information about cars
Your rights when buying privately
You have fewer legal rights if you buy privately.
The only rules are the car must be:
- as described
If a private seller lies about the condition of a car, you can sue for your losses.
Some dealers pretend to be private sellers to avoid their legal obligations and to get rid of faulty or over-priced cars. If you think someone who says they are a private individual is in fact a dealer contact the Office of Fair Trading on +44 1624 686520.
Signs to look out for include:
- ads giving a mobile phone number or specifying a time to call. You may be calling a public phone box rather than the seller’s home.
- the same phone number appearing in several ads.
- when you phone about the car, the seller asks 'which one?'
- instead of showing you the car at their home, the seller wants to bring the car to you.
Note that ads in classified sections of the newspapers with T or TS in the particulars indicate a trade sale.
Buying at auction
You can pick up a bargain at an auction but you need to know what you are doing.
Your rights when buying at an auction
Auctions can be a risky way of buying a used car. Auctioneers can refuse to accept responsibility for the quality of the goods they auction. Your only redress is with the seller and your usual legal rights may not apply if the seller issues a disclaimer, such as the term 'sold as seen'.
- Go along as a spectator first and see what happens
- Make sure you study the conditions of sale before bidding
- Decide the maximum you can afford and stick to it
- Once the hammer has fallen you can’t back out
What to look out for
Is the car in reasonable condition?
- Look at the car in daylight and when it is dry.
- Both bad light and rain can make faults difficult to spot. If you’re not confident about cars, take someone with you or get the car professionally inspected. You should also take a torch so you can inspect those areas that are hard to see under normal lighting conditions.
- Take it for a test drive. If you are buying from a private individual make sure you are covered by your insurance or theirs.
- Walk away if the seller is not happy to have the car tested by a professional mechanic (motoring organisations and specialist companies offer this service). If the car has already been inspected ask to see the report. Make sure any deposit that is paid is subject to survey, so that it is returnable in case the mechanic’s report advises against buying it.
- Check the service record book especially if the car is still under an extended warranty from the manufacturer. You may also want to check with your local dealer that they will honour the warranty, based on the car’s service history.
- If you identify any significant faults you should either negotiate a price reduction, get the seller to fix the faults at their expense or walk away.
Is it an insurance write-off?
If a car has been in an accident, it may be unsafe. Sometimes, two damaged cars are welded together to create a new one. These are known as 'cut and shuts' and are almost certainly unsafe.
Has it been clocked?
Low mileage can be a selling point. But the clock can be turned back to reduce the number of miles shown. If the mileage is low but the wear and tear on the car looks heavy the car could have been clocked.
The mileage reading forms part of the description of the car.
- Make sure the seller’s invoice shows the mileage recorded at the time of sale
Sellers sometimes protect themselves by covering up the mileometer or issuing a disclaimer saying that the mileage may be wrong. To be valid, such a disclaimer must be at least as noticeable as the mileage reading and as effectively brought to your attention.
Is it stolen?
It can be hard to tell whether a car is stolen. Its identity may have been changed - for example, the identity number and number plate of a legitimate car may be transferred to a stolen one. Vehicle registration documents can be forged or obtained by fraud.
Always ask to see the vehicle registration document and use the information on it to help you decide if the seller is telling the truth
You can sue the seller for your losses but this might be difficult if you bought privately and the seller has disappeared.
- If you bought the car on credit you may still have to pay off the loan. It depends on the type of agreement you have.
- If you buy a stolen car, the police can take it from you to return it to the original owner or the insurance company if a claim has been paid. You will not get any compensation from the police, your insurance company or the original owner even though you bought the car in good faith.
Does the car belong to a credit company?
A car bought on hire purchase or conditional sale belongs to the finance company until the payments have been completed.
If you buy a car with outstanding finance on it, the lender can take it back. The only thing you can do is sue whoever sold you the car - if you can find them.
There are some limited exceptions to this. If you were not aware that the car was subject to an outstanding credit agreement and bought it in good faith, you may be allowed to keep it. This does not apply to stolen cars or cars that were subject to a hire or lease agreement. You will need to get professional advice on this.
Paying for the car
Once you have found the car you want, the next step is to negotiate a price and pay for it.
Negotiating a price
Most used car prices are negotiable. You will be better able to negotiate if you have worked out a fair price for the year and model of the car. If you are buying from a dealer and want to trade in your old car you should work out a fair price for the old car, too. When trading in an old car it’s important to consider the 'cost to change', for example cost of insuring the new vehicle, not just the purchase price or trade-in price. If you get a professional mechanic to inspect the car you want to buy, they will usually tell you how much they think the car is worth.
Deposits are often requested by sellers as proof of your intention to buy and to reserve the car for you. If you pay a deposit and the firm goes out of business, or the individual disappears, you could get little or no money back. You should not pay anything in advance unless you have to - although sometimes it will be unavoidable.
- If you do pay a deposit make sure you get a receipt showing the company’s name and address and the car details including registration, vehicle identification number and mileage
- Check whether deposits are returnable, and if so, in precisely what circumstances, because if you do pay a deposit and then cancel the order, the firm could claim it is entitled to keep the deposit
- Check whether the firm belongs to a trade association that runs a scheme to protect prepayments
- If you are buying from a private individual, it is best not to give a cash deposit
- Let the seller make you an offer and then negotiate
- Ask for clarification if you’re not clear about any part of the deal
- You may get a discount if you pay by cash although cheques can be more easily traced if there is a problem
- You may be able to negotiate a discount if you do not have a vehicle to part exchange or the dealer is organising a loan for you. Dealers earn commission by arranging finance, so try to bargain for part of the commission on the finance deal or arrange your own finance
- Do not be afraid to say you want time to think or walk away if the deal’s not right
Buying your car on credit
Many dealers offer their own form of credit or will arrange credit for you. But it is always open to you to borrow the money from another source.
- What to do if things go wrong
- Act promptly
- Go back to the seller, explain the problem and what you want done
- If you aren’t happy with the outcome, get advice. Contact the Office of Fair Trading on +44 1624 686500
- If a dealer is a member of one of the trade associations listed on this page, they may be able to help
- If you are a member of a motoring organisation they may be able to help if you have problems
The following are the details of the trade associations who should be contacted if you have a problem with one of their members.
For complaints about RMIF members in Isle of Man, England, Wales & Northern Ireland
The National Conciliation Service
Retail Motor Industry Federation (RMIF)
2nd Floor Chestnut House
9 North Street Rugby CV21 2AB
Tel: 01788 576 465
For complaints about cars still under a manufacturer’s warranty
The Consumer Affairs Department
Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders
London SW1X 7DS
Tel: 0207 235 7000
Every year in the UK over 35,000 children under 15 go to hospital after an accident involving a toy. The majority of these accidents happen to toddlers between 1 and 3 years old.
- Buy a safe toy - bargans can cause accidents
Choose only quality toys from shops you know. A cheap toy isn’t a bargain if a child gets hurt. Don’t buy new or second-hand toys, for example from car boot sales, without checking very carefully.
- Throw broken toys away
It’s not charity to give them to others, it just passes your accident to someone else.
- Give it to the right child - make sure it is right for their age
Read the label. Young children can choke on toys with small parts, on marbles, even balloons. Watch too for children playing with toys meant for older brothers or sisters.
- Keep rooms and stairs tidy
Lots of nasty accidents are caused by people falling over toys left lying about. Put them away.
Listed below are items to check BEFORE toys are bought:
|Age warnings||They tell you how old children must be to play safely with a particular toy.|
|Small parts||Avoid toys with small parts for young children. Beware of small parts which can become loose or bitten off.|
|Filling material||Fillings in soft toys can choke young children. Check all seams are secure.|
|Toys with hair||Loose hair is a serious choking hazard to young children. Check all hair is securely attached.|
|Food imitations||Don't buy any toys which your children are likely to put in their mouths because they think it is food.|
|Toys and sweets||Sweets sold as part of a toy may confuse some children. Will your child be confused?|
|Sharp edges||Examine toys for sharp edges, points or splinters.|
|Finger traps||Be aware that toys that fold or have hinges may trap children's fingers. Check that locking devices work properly.|
|Cot toys||Don't buy cot or pram toys with long or loose strings. These can become entangled with a child's body or cause strangulation.|
|Toys that fly||Bullets, arrows and other toys that fly through the air can be dangerous. Consider if your child might misuse such toys. Follow all instructions and warnings.|
|Ride-on toys||Supervise children whilst they are using ride-on toys such as cars or rocking horses. Each year over 5,000 injuries are caused by this type of toy.|
Safety marks can help you identify a safe toy. Toys should conform to the safety standards BS EN 71. If this number is shown anywhere on the toy or the packaging it shows that the toy has been made to this BS EN 71 safety standard.
The Lion Mark on a toy's label or packaging shows the toy was manufactured to British and European safety and quality standards by a British manufacturer.
Toys for sale in the European Union (even those made in other parts of the world) must be marked with the CE Mark.
How to avoid becoming a victim
Scam is a popular term for an attempt to cheat you out of your money. Scams come in a multitude of forms and new ones are being thought up every day.
The most frequent type of scams that the Isle of Man authorities are alerted to every year are:
- fake lotteries and prize draws
- get rich quick investments (also known as 'boiler room' scams)
- pleas to help out people who are trying to transfer funds out of African countries.
Scammers can make contact by telephone, letter, e-mail, fax or text.
The common link between all scams is the apparent opportunity to gain significant amounts of money for very little investment or effort.
The scammers are extremely clever and all sorts of people get duped – not just the vulnerable members of society but also those amongst us who feel they have nothing to lose by responding to these contacts. The truth is the losses can be terrifying – people lose thousands, often having their bank accounts cleared out through providing the scammers with their bank account details. In the UK three million people fall victim to scams every year and residents of the Isle of Man are not immune.
It’s not only consumers who fall victim to scams – many target businesses. These types of scams tend to be bogus invoices for goods or services not ordered or received.
How to spot a scam
- It sounds too good to be true – Beware of hype and extravagant promises. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- You are contacted out of the blue – You may get a phone call, e-mail or letter from someone you've never heard of.
- You have to make a quick decision: – Scammers don't like to give you time to think. They will try to pressure you into making a decision by saying things like 'If you don't act now, you'll miss out.'
- You have to give away bank account details – Trustworthy firms will never contact you to ask for this information.
You can protect yourself
First and foremost, remember: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Don't be afraid to bin it, delete it or hang up.
Take your time
Resist pressure to make a decision right away. Contact the Office of Fair Trading on 686500 or ask your MHK for advice. Read the small print and be sure you understand all the terms and conditions of an offer.
Know who you're dealing with
Check that the firm or organisation you want to deal with is legitimate and reputable:
- Ask for full contact details, including a street address. A company website should provide the full street address for the business, not just a Post Office or mail box number.
- Contact them using details from their official website or documents. Be wary of buying from anyone who only gives an e-mail address or mobile phone number.
- Put the firm's name into an internet search engine to see what you can find out (although be wary – some scammers even go to the trouble of setting up bogus websites).
- All limited companies in the Isle of Man and the UK have to be registered. You can check if the company is registered with the Isle of Man Government Companies Registry if they claim to be an Isle of Man business or on UK Companies House Service if they claim to be a UK company.
- If you've received a letter or other mailing, you can check through the Direct Marketing Association whether it's come from one of its members.
- If you're being offered financial services, find out if the company is registered with the Isle of Man Financial Services Authority (FSA) or if they claim to be a UK company check with the Financial Conduct Authority or with the Prudential Regulation Authority
- Don't be fooled by professional-looking websites and marketing materials. Scammers are good at making their scams look authentic.
Protect your financial information
- Never give your bank account details to someone you don't know.
- Card Watch has tips on protecting yourself against credit and debit card fraud.
Protect yourself online
- Follow basic advice for safe online shopping and banking. Get Safe Online and Bank Safe Online offer advice and tips.
- In particular, never e-mail anyone your financial information - even if you do know them.
- If you have given your personal details to a scam website and are now worried your details could be used for criminal reasons, you should report the incident to any police officer.
Use a credit card
Pay by credit card if you can. Under the Consumer Credit Act, you should be entitled to a refund from your card issuer of money lost through fraudulent activity - if the cash price of a single item is over £100.
Cut junk mail and calls
You may wonder where the scammers get your contact details from. Lists of names and addresses used for advertising purposes are easily bought and sold. But it is possible to have your details removed from the lists.
- To have your name removed from a mail list contact the Mail Preference Service,.
- To have your name removed from a telemarketing list contact the Telephone Preference Service.
Ask for advice and report it
If you suspect you've been the victim of a scam and have lost money don't let embarrassment or fear prevent you from reporting it.
Contact your local police station or police headquarters on 631212 or Action Fraud.
Businesses also fall victim to scams. See Business Advice for tips and information.
Stop junk mail
To stop receving junk mail through the post, contact the Mailing Preference Service (MPS).
What MPS does
Consumers can register with MPS for free.
By registering with MPS, you will stop receiving most unsolicited consumer advertising material.
Advertising from companies with which consumers you have done business or charities to which you have donated will continue to be delivered. If this mail is not wanted anymore, you need to contact the individual company or charity directly.
MPS cannot stop unaddressed leaflets or items addressed to:
- the Occupier
- the Householder or the Business
It also cannot prevent:
- free newspapers
- inserts in magazines and bills
- some local mailings
- overseas mail - organisations will often base themselves overseas in order to avoid legal and self-regulatory restrictions
How to register
Registration covers all members of a household with the same surname.
Any member of the household who wishes to continue to receive unsolicited direct mail should register their full name in the section of the application form which requests more direct mail. This section may also be used on its own by any individual and it is possible to specify particular interest categories.
To register and for more information visit the Mailing Preference Service website.